Ribbons will be cut on October 2 at festivities highlighting the start of construction of the MSRC boathouse building. In the past, only a skeleton of steel beams and a roof has housed MSRC’s fleet of small boats and large equipment. Walls of construction-grade blocks of a specially formulated composite, consisting of concrete and municipal solid waste incineration ash, will be added to the building, the first land-based test site for these materials.
The construction marks an innovative use of a material that was once thought to be just one more type of waste product, but one that would be costly to dispose of. For example, it is projected that even with 50% recycling, burning the remaining 1.5 million tons of solid waste on Long Island will generate 375,000 tons of ash. Disposal using ashfills or hauling the ash off the island would cost $25-35 million a year.
MSRC’s Waste Management Institute (WMI) researchers Frank Roethel and Vincent Breslin have been the principal investigators in this project, having already created two experimental artificial reefs in a small embayment of Long Island Sound. The blocks have been periodically retrieved from the bay and tested for any materials that might be harmful to the environment. Roethel and Breslin have found the blocks to be safe and durable.
The success with the reef blocks prompted studies into other uses. Building the boathouse marks the fruition of an idea initiated more than five years ago by New York State Senators Caesar Trunzo and Kenneth LaValle, MSRC Director J. R. Schubel, and WMI Director Larry Swanson. That idea was to try to solve one of Long Island’s major waste management problems: what to do with incineration ash, given the complexities of landfill disposal on groundwater-dependent Long Island.
The air in the building and the ground around it will be monitored, and testing by any health agencies will be endorsed. “We want to be very certain that these blocks stand up to the most rigorous tests for environmental safety and human health,” said Schubel.